Battle of Visby


Battle of Visby

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Wisby


caption=
date=1361
place=
result=Danish victory
combatant1=
combatant2=
commander1=unknown
commander2=unknown
strength1=1,800
strength2=2,000
casualties1=300
casualties2=1800

The Battle of Visby was fought in 1361 in Visby on the island of Gotland, between the forces of Sweden and Denmark. The Danish force was victorious.

Background

On July 22, 1361, King Valdemar IV of Denmark ("Valdemar Atterdag") sent an army of 2,500 men ashore on Gotland's west coast. The citizens of Gotland paid taxes to the King of Sweden, though the population was diverse and included Russians, Danes and Germans. In 1280, the city of Visby joined the Wendish City-alliance along with Riga, Lübeck, Tallinn and other large population centres from northern Europe, further separating Visby and the countryside. Antagonism between city-dwellers and those living in the countryside heightened, and the peasants of the island were defeated in battle in 1288 despite the aid of knights from Estonia.

Battle

They Danish troops moved towards Visby. The first day of the invasion, two minor skirmishes were fought on marshy ground between peasant farmers and the army. The next day, from 800 to 1000 farmers were killed after massing for battle near Fjäle myr.

On July 27 an unorganized peasant army fought the Danes just outside the city, and were severely beaten, with an estimated toll of 1,800 peasants killed while the Danish casualties remains unknown. Only a couple of items that can be linked with Danish soldiers have been found, including a purse, and an ornamented armour belonging to a member of the Roorda Family from Friesland.Casualties can be compared with those that the French suffered at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356 and should be seen as high in medieval standards.

Extortion

Following the devastating battle, the citizens of Visby decided to surrender to avoid further losses. To save the city from sacking (plunder and demolition), the inhabitants were required to give a large amount of their wealth to King Valdemar. This extortion of contributions became a legendary event, although it can not be confirmed to have taken place, and if so, the events are unclear. The painting "Valdemar Atterdag holding Visby to ransom, 1361" tries to depict a possible scenario.

Not withstanding the extortion, the Danes proceeded to plunder several churches and monasteries.

King Valdemar appointed sheriffs to govern Visby and then set sail again. It would take another year before Valdemar officially added "King Of Gotland" to his many titles. When Albrekt (the younger) of Mecklenburg took the Swedish crown he claimed Gotland as part of his domains and held the island at least until 1369; thus the Danish presence there couldn't have been strong, as it so rapidly and easily returned to the Swedish crown. The island would be disputed over by the House of Mecklenburg and the Danish Crown until 1376 when Queen Margareta (the daughter of the late King Valdemar) officially claimed the island for Denmark.

The Swedish king Albrekt (the younger) of Mecklenburg was defeated in a civil war in 1389, in which Queen Margareta supported the "rebels", and was forced to abdicate. However, he was granted Gotland and its "capital" Visby, where he remained with a "pirate" organisation called the Vitalie Brothers. It wasn't until 1408 that the last remains of the house of Mecklenburg and the above mentioned pirates were driven out for good.

Modern excavation

Graves have been excavated in modern times to bring clarification in the events. It showed that at least a third of the Gotlandian army consisted of minors and elderly. Many of the dead defenders were unusually buried in their armour; because supposedly, according to historian John Keegan "...hot weather and their great number (about 2,000 bodies were disinterred six hundred years later) defeated the efforts of the victors to strip them before decomposition began."

The site of the excavation "yielded one of the most fearsome revelations of a medieval battle known to archaeologists." [Keegan, John. "The Face of Battle"]

Five mass-graves were located outside the city's walls, the first discovered in 1905, and two others found between 1909 and 1928.

References

* Westholm, Gun. Visby 1361, Invasionen

Other sources

* [http://www.bingeby.com/medieval-1361.html Medieval Times page]
* [http://homepage.ntlworld.com/peter.fairweather/docs/visby.htm Peter Fairweather page with photos of disinterred corpses.]


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